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Cloister of Saint Bethaene


Round 4 - Top 8: Design a Golarion location and map

1 to 50 of 52 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | next > last >>
Taldor RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16, 2010 Top 4

Cloister of Saint Bethaene
Fifteen years before Cayden Cailean was rebuffed by Calistria and stumbled drunkenly into the Starstone Cathedral to end it all, a reclusive order of druids began construction of a hill fort in the northern reaches of the Verduran Forest. Who they were and what they needed this structure for have been lost to the ages, as they were slain by the green dragon Vaxthelian within weeks of their fort’s completion. For hundreds of years since then, the hill fort served as home to bandits, goblins, and other such rough company.

In 4665 AR, a band of adventurers in league with the church of Calistria in Woodsedge cleared the hill fort of its unwanted denizens and rededicated it as the Cloister of Saint Bethaene the Double-Jointed in honor of their temple’s head hetaera. When Bethaene died in the Red Revolution two years later, her body was interred in the Cloister. And, while the mortal servants of the Sacred Sting died or moved on, Saint Bethaene’s final resting place was watched over by the goddess’s more otherworldly servitors—vicious ardorwesps and hedonistic fey.

Now, after years of peace, the Cloister is once more beset by troublesome and prying foes. While the aristocratic treasure seekers of Taldor have begun covertly sending parties of adventurers across the Galtan border to “rescue” relics of old, an even more sinister threat looms over the Cloister of Saint Bethaene. Members of a Nocticulan Slayer’s Guild in Woodsedge discovered the location of the Cloister, and have sent agents to claim the fort to further their machinations and holdings upon Golarion. Subtlety and seduction being key, the cult has sent a succubus assassin to pervert the current guardians and gather a following whose guile can reach into decadent Taldor.

The Cloister of Saint Bethaene is a cluster of nine underground chambers buried within a manmade hill. The steep, crescent-shaped slope rises to about 20 feet above the level of the surrounding forested plain. The walls within are all magically treated superior masonry (hardness 16, hp 180, break DC 55), beyond which is the hard packed earth of the hill. Unless otherwise noted, ceilings are 8 feet high in the hallways and 10 feet high in the Cloister’s rooms. Surprisingly dry and comfortable for such an old structure, the temperature is moderate and the air is fresh.

1. Meditation Garden
A massive oak dominates the center of this small courtyard, its dusky branches covered in deep foliage that mottles the area below in shade. A dark hollow, perhaps a foot wide, can just be seen at the tree’s base. Several stone benches sit beneath the mighty oak’s branches, and gardens off to the side fill the air with a not-unpleasant herbaceous scent. Set into the inner slope of the hill that makes up the Cloister are three pale stone doors with intricately carved lintels.

Even steeper than the slope of the outer hill, the 20 foot high sides of the courtyard here act as a cliff, and can be scaled with a DC 15 Climb check. The oak (see massive trees under Forest Terrain, Pathfinder Core Rulebook 425) has been branded with a well-hidden symbol of the demon lord Nocticula, which can be discovered with a DC 25 Perception check. The gardens act as light undergrowth, though some of the plants are slightly more hazardous (see below).

The stone benches can provide cover for Small creatures and high ground for attackers that stand upon them. They, like the posts and lintels of the doors are adorned with symbols of Calistria and carved with scenes of scantily clad maidens frolicking with satyrs. Closer inspection, and a DC 20 Perception check, reveals that the maidens all have cruel visages, the satyrs are fiends, and the religious iconography has all been slightly cracked.

The eastern door (leading to area 2) is jammed, requiring a DC 28 Strength check to open. The Cloister’s current inhabitants do not use the rooms beyond this door, and the lack of tracks to or from this area is readily apparent to anyone making a DC 15 Survival check.

Creatures: The oak is the bonded tree of a dryad, now twisted by the foul seductions of Nocticula’s servants. She serves as the first line of defense for the Cloister’s current master, though can often be found shirking such duty in favor of dalliances with one or more of the satyr guards from area 5. When present, the fiendish dryad is likely to surprise intruders, thanks to her tree meld ability. Upon noticing the PCs will she will step out of her tree on the far side from the party, using it as cover to hide, and use entangle to make the most out of the area’s hazard.

The ardorwesps that nest beneath the oak attack immediately upon spotting intruders, though PCs with visible symbols of Calistria will be treated with indifference rather than hostility. Loosely allied with the dryad, they will defer to her commands in battle. These creatures will readily follow PCs who flee, returning to this area only after having successfully used their implant ability. If any ardorwesp is killed here, the remaining creatures use their telepathy the next round to alert the entire complex to the intruders’ presence.

Ardorwesp (4) CR 3
XP 800 each
hp 22 each (RPG Superstar Round 3)

Fiendish Dryad CR 4
XP 1,200
hp 27 (Pathfinder Bestiary 116)
DR 5/cold iron and good; Resist cold 10, fire 10; SR 9
Special Attacks smite good 1/day as a swift action (+4 to attack rolls and +6 to damage against good foe; smite persists until target is dead or the fiendish dryad rests)

Hazard: Mixed in with the more common herbs and flowering plants of the gardens here are several tangles of pale nettleweed (Pathfinder Chronicles: Campaign Setting 216). A PC can identify these plants before stumbling into them with a DC 10 Knowledge (nature) check, but this will not help those who are bull rushed into these areas.

Development: Should a PC notice the symbol of Nocticula burned into the dryad’s tree, a DC 20 Knowledge (religion) or Knowledge (planes) check will confirm that this is some sort of demonic binding, and the cause of the dryad's fiendish powers. If the tree is splashed with six flasks of holy water (one for each HD of the dryad) or targeted with a consecrate or dispel evil spell, the dryad will lose the fiendish template and be freed of Nocticula’s influence. If this occurs, she likely uses tree stride to flee deep into the forest and lament what she had become unless a PC can quickly adjust her attitude to friendly. If they free the dryad from damnation, award the party XP as if they defeated her in regular combat.

If the ardorwesps send out their telepathic alarm, the entire Cloister goes on alert. This causes the satyr guards (from area 5) to arm themselves and move to the library (area 6). Should the fiendish dryad have been with them, she immediately returns to the garden to ensure the safety of her tree. All of the Cloister’s other inhabitants ready themselves to greet the PCs as described in their encounter areas.

Founder, Legendary Games & Publisher, Necromancer Games, RPG Superstar Judge

Initial Impression: Wow, a fey, demon, druid temple thing all thrown in a blender and Alexander hit puree. I like the looks of it! Let's check it out...

Location (new Golarion location, name, overall design decision for location, advenuture possibilities, playability/usability, niche, challenge, format and writing): B+

Good location, good conflict. The core of a location is as a place for adventure and you deliver. Good allocation of your word count. Good balance between the location and the encounter. I prefer to shift slightly to the encounter as so much about the location can be told in the map and the encounter text too. But you did that well. Good scope of the location, too. No "Jzadirune" here.

Map (necessary material for a cartographer, presence of mandatory content, quality of design decisions, playability/usability of the map, interaction with encounter): A

Now this is an example of an excellent hand drawn map. They don't all have to be really pimpy computer maps. This one is great. Great size and scope. Great level of detail. This has everything.

Encounter (monster choice; read-aloud text; challenge; details; quality of design choices; interaction between encounter, map and location; format and writing): A

This is an example of great read aloud text. It doesn't presume any action or reaction but still sets an evocative scene and prepares for adventure. Well done. Great set up, nice bad guys, the encounter isn't just a monster encounter in some location. It has to happen here, which is great.

Tilt (gut reaction, do I want to use it, other unique positive or negative circumstances not covered above): A

This is great work. Sorry I have less to say on the good entries. My writing on the good ones always is shorter than the ones I dont like. That' because I think the good ones are clearly good and the bad ones need some explaining.

Overall: A-

Alexander, I thought you took your foot off the gas last round. Not so here. This is a great submission.

Recommendation: I DO recommend this entry advance to the Top 4.

Paizo Employee Editor-in-Chief

Story/Set-Up
Although rooted in a variety of Golarion specifics, at the root here what we’ve got is a demon-tainted temple. The fey elements are unexpected, but I don’t feel like they really to or detract from the location. Overall, this just feels very muddled, as we’ve thrown Calaistria, druids, fey, demons, Nocticula, Taldor, Galt, and a few others all into a big mix. Focusing on any one of these aspects and working from there would make this gel better for me, as I’d be hard pressed to summarize the history in one compelling sentence as it stands.

Location
A temple of Calistria, in a hill, with fey elements, and demon taint. That’s mixing a lot of flavors, several of which I think are unnecessary and potentially detract from the area’s focus.

Encounter
We see the “It’s a good guy monster, but this time it’s a bad guy!” cliché a lot. That’s kind of the “Gotcha!” element of templates in general – as in: Gotcha! This red dragon breathes ice! This kraken can fly! This dryad is a demon! We avoid templates (especially general ones like fiendish) a lot just because they are overused and largely feel like a gimmicks.

But does that make this a poor encounter, not at all. The dryad’s tactics are simple but sound. The ardorwesps are kind of just there, but I like that they can be turned to the PCs side. Probably the most interesting part to me are the nettleweeds, which could lead to some interesting tactical elements. But even then, the area is laid out very simply, so at the end of the day, not bad, but nothing to write home about.

Read Aloud Text
Spot on.

Creature Use
Arodorwesps in a temple of Calistria, the connection there sure is spot on. The rest of the fey elements feel a bit tacked on to me, and the demon elements even more so.

Map
A clean and clear if simple map. This is very basic in a “room 1 leads to room 2 leads to…” kind of way. There’s not a lot here that really thinks in two dimensions or seems to lend itself to memorable encounters. That’s not to say that other encounter descriptions couldn’t do that, but just from the map everything looks pretty basic. Good use of extra details, though.

Overview
My major criticism of this is that I feel like it’s trying to do too much. If you want to do a mound temple, lets see a plot focusing on scary druids or fey. Adding in extra elements that in many cases feel random just muddles the mix. There’s also a lot here that definitely conveys that the author has an idea and a story he wants to tell us about, but less that the designer is thinking about cool ways to use the rules and create exciting encounters. An adventure writer has to be half author and half game designer, and all too often folks lean more toward story than creative and fun use of the rules. Remember it takes both for an encounter to be really great.

Cartographer

I would give this map reference a grade of A.

Very nice reference sketch! The addition of room furnishing details is great.

Well laid out and detailed, but also leaves enough room for the cartographer to produce a unique looking map.

This map will be very easy for any skilled cartographer to produce.

I wish all of my references were at this level.

Great Job!

Cartographer

A.

To start, there is a good grid and flow to this map. The interior is VERY clearly keyed to give attention to a scenario in each room to allow the cartographer to add details, but keep the focus on the room's content. The outer parts are noted to help add a greater sense of environment and setting to the adventure. The extra noted details, like the "continuous flames" and "debris" are helpful to the cartographer and exhibits the GM's concept to make set the mood visually.

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

LOCATION
Problem: Calistria didn't rebuff CC, and he didn't take the Test as a form of suicide. It's canon that he took the Test on a drunken dare, so saying otherwise is about as accurate as saying that Conan was actually a female hobbit. What's even more confusing to me is that the mention of Cayden Cailean is a throwaway reference that has nothing to do with the Location at all, it's just a date-marker. It's like saying "four years before Nixon murdered Nelson Mandela..." and then spending the rest of the text describing the Watergate Hotel. I don't get it. And it makes me think, "if I assigned you something, I'd really have to scrutinize anything you said relating to world canon."

The encounter tries to mix in a lot of things--druids, Calistria, Galt, Nocticula, and so on. You could probably pare that down a bit to focus it a little better, but there's nothing really wrong with it.

ENCOUNTER
Here's some advice on the use of the word "will."

I like the fiendish dryad idea, very appropriate for this location, and her powers can make this encounter fun.

MAP
The map is simple and clean. It could probably use a little more pizazz to make it really interesting, even just a couple of rooms that are a half-level above the ground floor, but the map is readable and clear.

OVERALL
Though that Cayden goof alarmed me, the rest of this is pretty solid. Hopefully a nice, stern punish-punish can convince you to not make that mistake again (or cite me a reference showing I've forgotten something), and you'll end up a dependable freelancer who puts together neat encounters and makes maps I don't have to redo for the cartographers.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014 aka Darkjoy

Initial impressions:

Good clear map.

Good setup, I really like what you've done here.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Name: 9/10
Maybe I'm a sucker for monasteries, but I wanted to know more.

Description: 8/10
I like short history of the area. It felt like the location evolved over time.

Map: 8/10
I really like the grove area in the middle. I also like that there is more than one way into the interior.

Encounter: 8/10
Ardorwesps are certainly popular. I liked the addition of the dryads. Would be fun to throw against my characters.

Overall: 4,608
This scale is all numbers multiplied. In my top 4. I look forward to seeing what you can do!

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, 2011 Top 32, 2012 Top 4

Congrats once again on making the Top 8! I'm going to review all 8 submissions using the same criteria. I'm not reading any other comments beforehand, so apologies if I repeat something another reviewer has written.

1. Map - Your map is neatly drawn, legible, and interesting. I like to steal maps and use them for my homebrew scenarios, and I could definitely see myself swiping this one. Grade = A.

2. Quality - Your writing is just fine. Nice clean and efficient. Grade = A.

3. Creativity - I love the twisted fey and the guardian satyrs. The demon-branded tree is very cool too. There's some good mojo here. Grade = A.

4. Wow Factor - Do I want to use this location/encounter? While it's not setting my laptop on fire, it is an interesting location. I think I would use it after making a few tweaks here and there to fit it into my home campaign. Grade = B.

Final Grade = 3.75, a solid B.

After I review everyone else, I'll cast my vote. Good luck!

Qadira

Sean K Reynolds wrote:
(or cite me a reference showing I've forgotten something)

I guess, Alexander refered to G&M 8: "(for example, one says, that she (Calistria) rebuffed Cayden Cailean,..., so he took the Test of the Starstone for the chance to be with her as a god)."

And Cayden's drunken dare is marked as a legend (G&M 10), so I guess it can be a bit confusing to see what's canon and what's not.

Dunno where the suicide part came from, though.

Apart from that, I really liked this entry. Map well-done, evocative text, and definitely a location I can see myself using. Haven't seen the other entries so far, but you set the bar quite high for them.


Regarding Cayden Cailean:
P. 8, Gods & Magic, Sean K. Reynolds

Calistria wrote:
...Calistria's interactions with other gods are complex and strewn with contradictions and fabrications. Some paint her as a good god's lover, others as an enemy. Some even suggest the creation or destruction of certain deities (for example, one says that she rebuffed Cayden Cailean, saying no mortal could enjoy her charms and survive, so he took the Test of the Starstone for the chance to be with her as a god)...

So, a suggestion that Calistria rebuffed Cayden Cailean, mention that he even may have taken the Test of the Starstone because of that (so as to be able to 'enjoy her charms'), but no mention of suicide.

(I have checked the Cayden Cailean entry in Gods & Magic also, the deity write-ups in Pathfinder #14 & #17, the Campaign Setting, Gazetteer and Yoda's Wikipedia and cannot find any mention of suicide.)


Hmm. Not sure where the green dragon Vaxthelian comes from though. Pathfinder Society? The Guide to the River Kingdoms? Module? Completely made up?


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Charles Evans 25 wrote:

Hmm. Not sure where the green dragon Vaxthelian comes from though. Pathfinder Society? The Guide to the River Kingdoms? Module? Completely made up?

RotRL, I believe

btw, the refference to Gods and Magic? rimshot


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

I agree with the judges that you mix up too much of background in an attempt to make this encounter Golarion Specific. I would have rather you used those words to tell me, the GM, how I could use this encounter in my game tonight.

The location itself is pretty solid, as is the dryad and the use of the ardowesps (I bet that's why you chose Calistria in the first place).

I haven't decided on voting for you yet, as this is the first entry I checked.

Star Voter 2013

I liked the map a lot, you've got one of my votes.

Cheliax

Wow, this one truly stands out among the map submissions! It's a good, clear sketch of the place, and you've included a lot of details there without making it look like a mess -- nice work! As someone who always includes bookshelfs, sofas, paintings, tapestries, curtains and other such details in his maps, I really love this one!

I do think the plan is a bit too simple, i.e. the rooms are very square and the map in itself is quite, well, boring (if this was in a published module, I'd probably redraw at least half of the map before I ran it). As an adventure location, though, it's well-designed.

Even though I have some issues with the design/plan of the place, I think your work shows the most potential out of all the submissions. :)

Star Voter 2013

I like it.

It doesn't feel muddle to me, as I got a good idea how I would flesh out the remaining rooms.

I would like to see your thoughts for the remainder of the dungeon in another thread, AFTER the voting of course. Don't want any DQs!

Good luck and hope to see what you bring next round.

Cheliax

Again, I am very impressed with Alexander's submission. The map is very well done and the encounter would be loads of fun both to run and to play in. The fiendish dryad and satyr guards are a nice touch. Top 4 for me. Keep it coming and good luck.


I could only bring myself to vote for 2 entries this round and I'm quite saddened by that.

Alexander's was one I voted for. The map is readable, but only passable on the interesting scale. However, I think it's okay enough as a cartography turnover that I wouldn't be worried as the developer that the cartographer wouldn't understand what was going on. As the rest of Alexander's turnovers, the write-up is interesting, fun, and well-written.

Good work, Alexander.


You had me at "Double-Jointed".


This is the first submission I read for this round, and I have to say I was very impressed. I can definitely see myself using something like this in one of my own campaigns. The history doesn't really do that much for me, however, as I have yet to learn any real background for Golaria, and this setting is a little too area-specific for my own tastes, but that's just me. I did get the impression that Calistria is a deity of nature, and having fey creatures guard a temple dedicated to her to me makes absolute sense. Having those fey turned fiendish due to the influence of a succubus and her master is a brilliant use of the fiendish template. I undertand Wesley's concerns about templates being just gimmicks (and apparently that he hates templates in general ;-)), but I don't see that here; these aren't just tacked on, but actually well thought out. It's a lot better than making variants of dryads and satyrs etc. when the template itself gets the job done nicely.

This is one adventure I would like to see more of.

Qadira

WormysQueue wrote:
Sean K Reynolds wrote:
(or cite me a reference showing I've forgotten something)

I guess, Alexander refered to G&M 8: "(for example, one says, that she (Calistria) rebuffed Cayden Cailean,..., so he took the Test of the Starstone for the chance to be with her as a god)."

And Cayden's drunken dare is marked as a legend (G&M 10), so I guess it can be a bit confusing to see what's canon and what's not.

Dunno where the suicide part came from, though.

Apart from that, I really liked this entry. Map well-done, evocative text, and definitely a location I can see myself using. Haven't seen the other entries so far, but you set the bar quite high for them.

Can Sean please respond? He says there was no rebuff, but G&M says differently? Is he telling us to ignore the G&M 8 entry?


Chef's Slaad wrote:
Charles Evans 25 wrote:

Hmm. Not sure where the green dragon Vaxthelian comes from though. Pathfinder Society? The Guide to the River Kingdoms? Module? Completely made up?

RotRL, I believe

btw, the refference to Gods and Magic? rimshot

I've just been over the Dragons article in Pathfinder #4 which seemed the most logical place to find mention of Vaxthelian and turned up nothing. Given the dates involved (Cayden taking the Test of the Starstone was almost 2,000 years earlier than the Campaign Setting current year of 4708 AR) I'm inclined to think this is either a dragon which features in the history of one of the countries around the Verduran forest, or has been completely made up. It seems unlikely to me to be still active today.

It's a minor detail, anyway, and I'm not sure it was necessary (unless the dragon was intended to feature in the hypothetical fleshed out adventure of which this is supposed to be a part) to actually name a dragon.


I have a few practical problems with the map, such as no privy adjacent to the dining area and nettlevines not pinpointed on the map, but these are fairly small things really.

The description looks fairly tight to me, although details for all the doors (including hardness hp, etc) should have been given too, I feel.

I'm not clear if the use of telepathy to alert other denizens is valid, as I'm uncertain from the description in the bestiary of the ability if it's line of sight dependent?

The use of ardorwesps in this situation makes sense.

My overall impression is of a good encounter, although it is part of a site which has at least one problem (the assertion that Cayden Cailean was suicidal) with some of the backstory.

Thank-you for submitting this entry. It's been generally enjoyable to see you back in this contest.


Charles Evans 25 wrote:
Chef's Slaad wrote:
Charles Evans 25 wrote:

Hmm. Not sure where the green dragon Vaxthelian comes from though. Pathfinder Society? The Guide to the River Kingdoms? Module? Completely made up?

RotRL, I believe

btw, the refference to Gods and Magic? rimshot

I've just been over the Dragons article in Pathfinder #4 which seemed the most logical place to find mention of Vaxthelian and turned up nothing. Given the dates involved (Cayden taking the Test of the Starstone was almost 2,000 years earlier than the Campaign Setting current year of 4708 AR) I'm inclined to think this is either a dragon which features in the history of one of the countries around the Verduran forest, or has been completely made up. It seems unlikely to me to be still active today.

It's a minor detail, anyway, and I'm not sure it was necessary (unless the dragon was intended to feature in the hypothetical fleshed out adventure of which this is supposed to be a part) to actually name a dragon.

Dragons Revisited has a lot of Golarion specific Dragons mentioned..I don't have it to hand at work but will check tomorrow

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

Elden Belleneth wrote:
Can Sean please respond? He says there was no rebuff, but G&M says differently? Is he telling us to ignore the G&M 8 entry?

G&M says:

Calistria’s interactions with other gods are complex and strewn with contradictions and fabrications. Some paint her as a good god’s lover, others as an enemy. Some even suggest the creation or destruction of certain deities (for example, one says that she rebuffed Cayden Cailean, saying no mortal could enjoy her charms and survive, so he took the Test of the Starstone for the chance to be with her as a god).

It *is* canon that CC took the Test on a drunken dare. Calistria's writeup in G&M says Calistria rebuffed CC, so he took the Test... but Calistria's writeup in G&M also says the lore about her liaisons are contradictory and full of known falsehoods.

So, in the spirit of Saint Irides, let's talk about more than just that one snippet of Alexander's entry for this round....

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Sean K Reynolds wrote:
So, in the spirit of Saint Irides....

He's Irish right? As in "Irish irides are smiling"...? ;-D

Star Voter 2013

As I voted for you last round, I happened to turn to your entry first this round. I'm a little disappointed, although it's my first one I'm reading. What follows is hopefully some productive criticism for following rounds, should you make it:

Four wasps and a dryad? Four flyers and a caster in a confined space? And your encounter submission is the door guards to a complex? Why not the boss battle? That's what all of that history leads up to?

Your opening paragraph is more confusing than illuminating, which is pretty much the worst paragraph for that. The first reference to the gods has no bearing on the actual site itself other than the fact that followers of one of them eventually popped up and cleared out the place from the monsters that initially cleared out the druids from the place. Note that gods' squabble has no bearing on the followers clearing out this place. Do I need to know about hundreds of years of goblinoids and bandits? No. Do the druids have something to do with this place? Not really. You certainly don't use it again. I think an editor would make this passage more efficient and move it down in your piece. Pick one use for the place and use the saved space to make the rest of your submission awesome. Don't bury your lede, which is paragraph two. The fact that people spent a great deal of time debating your first sentence, which has almost nothing to do with your submission should tell you why.

I'm fairly conversant in the Golarion world, but not a master of it. Have the northern reaches of Verduran forest become less isolated and remote? Because otherwise it's not really a good place for a practicing hetaera, nor for training hetaera; it's not impossible, mind you, but their ability to go to museums and cultural centers is going to be pretty restricted here. Hetaera are liberated, cultured, educated women, not hookers or hermits, as you know if you're using the term in the first place. So, I really have trouble imagining hetaera being trained in such an ugly place as an underground complex within a man-made hill. What civilized woman looks at a mound of dirt with no baths and says, "That's my new home!"?

Five beds. You have five SMALL beds for a cloister presumably devoted to training people in NSFW activities. You also have a library with no place to sit down, making reading in the unprotected yet underground garden the only place for it. So you read your books next to the entry guards? And lastly there's no way to protect this place, with its open entrance and three doorways in and no back door. You have the worst of both worlds: it's easy for enemies to get in and there's no other way out except for the front door. It's problematic as an isolated cloister and a lair for hundreds of years of baddies. No wonder this place kept getting taken over! Bad room design.

I'm going to presume that these occupants are small in number, as I've my doubts about how many people can be fed long-term from a 60' garden split into four patches, although the fey periods are going to do well enough. Of course, you describe the garden as being devoted to herbs and flowers, which means it's not supplying greens to the inhabitants, at least some of whom presumably need to eat. Presumably their kills from hunting are kept in the storage area off the kitchen, although, again, a 10' room doesn't look sufficient for any but the smallest of cloisters/hill forts/bandit camps. Getting said kills and supplies up the cliff is going to be a pain for the inhabitants. I can't imagine that over hundreds of years that some bandit chief didn't get sick of this place and have slaves carve a path up to his home.

Underground+fey=suspicious players. Nothing says evil's afoot like a dryad living underground. So this is just your basic hack and slash, which pretty much guarantees the succubus encounter is going to go very badly for her. And no, the underground tree pretty much screams the presence of a bad druid or fee. Only the newest of players is going to be surprised that there's a dryad here. The presence of four dog-sized wasp-creatures might also make surprise difficult. The room's small size means that a fireball hitting the tree sets the entire room on fire.

The lone positive to this submission, to my eyes, is the development, which at least gives some RP and skill opportunities.

Final summary: boring encounter, problematic location design, history that's either irrelevant or too wordy.

Andoran

Sean K Reynolds wrote:

LOCATION

Problem: Calistria didn't rebuff CC, and he didn't take the Test as a form of suicide. It's canon that he took the Test on a drunken dare, so saying otherwise is about as accurate as saying that Conan was actually a female hobbit. What's even more confusing to me is that the mention of Cayden Cailean is a throwaway reference that has nothing to do with the Location at all, it's just a date-marker. It's like saying "four years before Nixon murdered Nelson Mandela..." and then spending the rest of the text describing the Watergate Hotel. I don't get it. And it makes me think, "if I assigned you something, I'd really have to scrutinize anything you said relating to world canon."

ok... just to be clear considering he can't defend himself

And I know you made the Cannon... but there is at least one place where it says that the reasons why Cayden took the Testwas becuase he was rebuffed by Calistria... will need to check the source.

Edit: ok this is not in Cayden's entry in the PF Campaign Setting

I am almost sure i read it somewhere related to Calistria... and those who amde the temple might think so... but you are right... this is an unimportant data... except in one regard... to give a date to the temple's construction... which would be more than 1000 years

Star Voter 2013

Also, stop to think about the implications of your development section and what you're asking the DM to role play. Succubus+satyrs+good dryad MADE evil by the demon brand=implied long-term sexual assault of a good being by demons.

Alexander MacLeod wrote:
If this occurs, she likely uses tree stride to flee deep into the forest and lament what she had become...

Gee, ya think? You just confirmed the players' suspicions. And it's not "what she had become" it's what was done to her, dude.

That's a serious ick for most players + really delicate and dangerous role-playing for the DM. I didn't like the use of X-rated material in Crisis of Freeport and I don't like it here. You think Paizo had to do damage control after Crown of the Kobold King? That would be nothing next to publishing this encounter. In a professional context, I would hope that an editor would point this out to you. Unfortunately, I get to be the one to bring it up, which I'm not really happy about doing but can't in good conscience see a way to remain silent.

Note: The review in the post before this one was written before I put these pieces together.


roguerouge wrote:
...You also have a library with no place to sit down, making reading in the unprotected yet underground garden the only place for it...

The garden isn't underground as far as I can determine.

"Alexander MacLeod wrote:
...The Cloister of Saint Bethaene is a cluster of nine underground chambers buried within a manmade hill. The steep, crescent-shaped slope rises to about 20 feet above the level of the surrounding forested plain...

The hill is 'crescent shaped' with the garden located in the hollow within the horns of the crescent.

Granted this seems an odd shape for a manmade hill for a hill fort. Possibly damage was sustained during an attack on the fort at one point creating the hollow.

roguerouge wrote:
...Getting said kills and supplies up the cliff is going to be a pain for the inhabitants...

As far as I can determine the only slopes which are clifflike are the inner ones of the crescent overlooking the garden.

Alexander MacLeod wrote:
...Even steeper than the slope of the outer hill, the 20 foot high sides of the courtyard here act as a cliff, and can be scaled with a DC 15 Climb check...

As far as I can determine the timeline for the location goes something like:

1) Druids build manmade hill. Put fort on top.
2) Long line of owners of hill fort.
3) Church of Calistria move in. Rather than sit on top of the hill, they excavate chambers beneath it. (Maybe when they evicted the previous occupants and moved in they caused a lot of damage with summoned elementals which rearranged the shape of the hill from regular hill fort mound to crescent shaped mound, and leaving not enough space up top for anyone to sit on any more).
4) Church of Calistria move out leaving fey behind.
5) Agent of Nocticula moves in. Current Day.

Star Voter 2013

You're right about the nonundergroundness of the garden and where the cliff-like hill areas are. My error. And, now that you've clarified things, it's certainly unusual that druids would make a hill and put a fort on top of it. The latter's the most unusual thing.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16, 2012 Top 32 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014 aka Epic Meepo

I'll be voting for this entry.

The map is fairly solid, and is a good example of the kind of map I like. There aren't a bunch of gratuitous curves and funky-shaped rooms, making it easy to draw at the table. But you prevent the rectangular rooms from getting boring by adding interesting details. This is exactly the sort of map I want to see in adventures.

That being said, I do agree a bit with the earlier post about the furniture seeming a bit odd. It's strange that there are no seats near all of those bookshelves, and the beds are way, way too small. And unless there's indoor plumbing, I doubt you're going to want a privy 10 feet from your bed.

Some advice from the architecture courses I took in college: when designing a living space, spend lots of time imagining what your day-to-day routine would be like if you lived there, then make sure you accommodate it with the layout. But do more than just list your activities and add a room for each. Imagine yourself standing in the rooms you just drew and trying to perform the relevant activities therein, or moving between them as you go from one activity to the next.

Another minor nitpick is your location background. There's such a thing as too much backstory for the word count, and I think we see a bit of that here. A lot of the setting tie-ins come off as gratuitous, and much of the location's history could be simplified and condensed.

By contrast, I really liked the comprehensive terrain descriptions and developments sections. These contain a large amount of information, all of which is both relevant and concise. That gives me confidence that you could handle a module with a larger word count without forgetting any of the little details that a GM needs to run it.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Honestly, as of this writing, this is one of the only two encounters thus far written that I can vote for without any doubts or qualifications.

One of the reasons I dig it is because of the evil dryad. Frankly, dryads are charismatic, versitile fey with a compelling lady-plant hybrid vibe and they're low-level enough to be very customizable. The problem is, despite a well entrenched tradition of stealing pretty guys away to be their personal boy-toys, they're Chaotic Good. So, since most PCs aren't evil, there's there's not much call to stat a custom dryad unless the heroes have to team up and play tower defense with one protecting her grove.

So here's my vote of favor for trans-alignment creatures, particularly fey, who're usually more bowlderizedly goody-good in D&D than they are in lore.

Second, because of the nature of the encounter (with an evil demon brand making her do bad,) there's more than one way of dealing with the problem. PCs who like hack and slash can just beat her the heck up. PCs who like seeking alternate solutions can take out the demon brand. Those who might be interested in rescuing wayward souls can even try and save her from evilhood and nurse her back to herself again. That's something that's way too under-represented in D&D & Pathfinder in my opinion

Third, I think that this encounter does a darn good job of presenting that bad bad entities and people do bad bad things in a gritty world like Golarion while tastefully skirting the exacting specifics of how the dryad became (or was made) what she is.

Fourth, this is the only of two encounters in this entire contest which has excellency in writing, encounter plotting, and map design. There are others with great encounter ideas, or great writing, or great mapping, or a combination of the above but there's just a precious couple that hold everything together.

... in short, Vote for This Guy!

Andoran RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014 aka JoelF847

Overall, I think you have a solid entry here, you cover all of the basics in a clear way. Your map is technically excellent, portraying the encouter area very clearly. However, while you did everything you needed to without any (major) mis-steps, my overall impression was that this was an excellently written and detailed encounter that wasn't particularly interesting.

I felt that the throwaway reference to CC was distracting. As I continued reading, I kept looking for how CC was invovled in this location, but that never happened. While I thought that the suicide/Calistria reference to him sounded not quite right, it wasn't jarring to me, even if it's inaccurate, but the fact it was mentioned at all didn't get this entry off to a good start.

Beyond that, my only real compaint about the entry was that it was not particularly exciting or interesting. As roguerouge mentioned, this is just an encounter with door guards. That being said, I think it's well done for what it is - there's some interesting hazards/terrain, and an alternate way to deal with the combat (perception / knowledge / holy water to cleanse the dryad).

I don't know what the other entries are like, so I can't say if I'll vote or not for this one, but when comparing it to the encounter entries from RPG Superstar 2008, this is simply lacking. I do understand that the rules required use of one of the R3 monsters, and poersonally, I think that's a mistake in this year's contest. It makes it a lot harder to come up with orcs on a bobsled chase, a battle ona frozen over lake that can have the very surface the PCs stand on fliped over, or a whacked out fight with an inevitable in a weird lighting globe filled sanctum. I'm really looking for an entry in this round that grabs my attention and makes me want to run the encounter, even without any other knowledge of the location or adventure.

EDIT - I did like the detail of the saint of Calistria being 'the double jointed' - that's the kind of saint I could get behind!


Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber

Very nice! Map makes sense, the setup is decent without being too complex and overwhelming (sure it has changed hands but there's not dwelling on it...). One of my favorites this round!

Edit: Though I am saddened that one of the locations in the temple is not the "Bangatorium."

Star Voter 2013

Joel Flank wrote:
I don't know what the other entries are like, so I can't say if I'll vote or not for this one, but when comparing it to the encounter entries from RPG Superstar 2008, this is simply lacking. I do understand that the rules required use of one of the R3 monsters, and poersonally, I think that's a mistake in this year's contest.

Seconded.


Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
roguerouge wrote:
Joel Flank wrote:
I don't know what the other entries are like, so I can't say if I'll vote or not for this one, but when comparing it to the encounter entries from RPG Superstar 2008, this is simply lacking. I do understand that the rules required use of one of the R3 monsters, and poersonally, I think that's a mistake in this year's contest.
Seconded.

Thirded, I don't know what an ardorwasp is but I'm already sick of 'em.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16 aka tejón

In previous rounds, any comments I've made have been directly to the contestants; praise, criticism, advice, etc. We're down to the wire in top 8, so I'm changing that: this review is for the benefit of other voters. As such, I'm using a standardized scoring scheme.

Each of eight categories will be be given 1 to 8 points. To prevent myself from sugar coating anything, these are ranks relative to the other entrants: 8 is the best of the round, 1 is the worst, and there will be no ties.

The final rank is based on the sum of these scores, with the first four categories counting double. (Subjective appeal is harder to fix than technical issues.) Ties are broken by the Momentum score.

Momentum: 2
The personal bias factor! Am I a fan of your work in prior rounds?
I've seen some spark in your prior entries, but a lot of flaws as well.

Location: 3
Is this a compelling and memorable place to visit?
Yet Another Abandoned Temple. At least this one isn't truly abandoned; a well-tended garden is a nice change from crumbling ruins. Being built into a barrow means Gratuitously Dungeon-Shaped Rooms, but at least they're mostly laid out sensibly. (Why they have an indoor toilet is beyond me.)

Encounter: 7
Clever? Exciting? Devoid of GM headaches and player annoyance?
Top marks here! Yeah, it's "show up and fight," but so was everything else this round. The details of the terrain are what make this a winner; a big tree, multifunction benches, and the nettles are a fantastic touch. There's even a tip-off for the GM on how to exploit them. No bones about it: this is something you do well!

Plot: 3
Is this encounter well-connected to a plausible larger adventure?
There's a demon cult. It's doing demon-cultish things. Points for having the tie-in at all, but it's a pretty generic one.

Round 3 Tie-In: 3
You had to use a round 3 monster. How much does that matter?
Of the four ardorwesp entries I feel that yours is the least inspired. I'm not marking you down for the irony of this in the face of being their creator, and it's not even that your tie wasn't a good one. The others were just better; all of them involved revenge, yours really only involved Calistria in a nebulous "oh, there she is" sense.

Golarion Tie-In: 5
This has to be a Golarion location. How much does that matter?
Calistria was pretty clearly a name-drop so you could use the wesps, and there's nothing here that makes me think any other sylvan deity couldn't be substituted. Conversely, there's nothing that makes Calistria seem inappropriate or tacked-on, and it does make an odd sort of sense for a succubus to target her sylvan worshipers.

Map Quality: 6
Is your map clear, concise and useful?
I commented earlier about the rather generic rooms and that inexplicable stink-hole in the bedroom; those nitpicks dropped you a couple of pegs, but no mistake, you're in the top tier on this.

Text Quality: 7
Is your text clear, concise and useful?
There definitely are a few things you could have tightened up, but more to the point, it's quite clear that you have the ability to do so. This was an easy read, and you tossed in plenty of useful tidbits for use before and during the encounter.

Final Rank: 6th
Total Score: 51
There's a cluster of three right in the middle. You lost a tiebreaker to Momentum, and the one that made 4th was only one point ahead. So really, the slightest thing could have bumped you into my voting bracket. I'm impressed, and I think you got to showcase your biggest talent this round with the encounter. You could easily advance, and I have no doubts that you will see publication on the merits you've shown.


I think there was a baaad dryad in 'The Amarantha Agenda' back in the days of Dungeon magazine...

Back to business:
The encounter is interesting, and the use of the ardorwesps sensible (at least in my opinion) as it was one of the better stat-blocks in Round 3.
I have some doubts as to the location, as you haven't really done anything to tie your long history of changing ownership to the current situation. There isn't anything about rumours of buried bandit gold, nothing about that dragon you mention flattening the druids, not even mention of journeys by pilgrims to the location where this saint of the Calistrian church is interred (which could be a useful adventure hook for GMs).

And then there was the Cayden Cailean boo-boo. Even assuming that you found the 'rebuff' story in a source other than Gods & Magic (such as the Campaign setting entry for Calistria, for example), putting your own interpretation on such a big piece of canon history was a very risky step. Do not repeat that in Round 5 if you make it. Seriously. It took you out of contention for my votes for the top two entries this round, and almost cost you any hope of a vote from me at all.
Furthermore Wes and Sean will be joined next round by a certain guest judge known to who run an elven rogue PC, and you simply won't wake up one morning if you do anything so daft again - although Merisiel will get to carve one more notch on whatever item she keeps track of her kills on.

Best of luck for the future.


This is an excellent entry. I can dig demon-corrupted fey in a Calistrian monastery.

The map is clean and clear but also interesting. The location is just big enough to have a good adventure in and no bigger; it has near the ideal scope for this contest round.

Your encounter is wonderfully integrated into the location. It makes perfect sense to encounter the dryad and ardorwesps as the guardians of this complex's entrance. The encounter wouldn't be as dynamic or action-packed as in Matthew McGee's entry, but it's substantially better than a plain room with some plain monsters in it.

The backstory is a little invovled and convoluted, and you screwed up some Golarion canon with the Cayden/Calistria thing, but that's the only problem with this whole entry.

I'm voting for this.

Osirion RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4; Contributor; Publisher, Legendary Games

I like it! Nicely done. Good balance between background and encounter. I like the potentiality of converting the dryad and ardorwesps. It DOES have a lot of stuff going on, but I don't think it's an unmanageable lot of stuff. It's close to the edge but I don't think it goes over.

Be careful with overciting canon if you're not positive about what you're citing - use the Pathfinder wiki to help you find official sources.

In general, though, good job. This gets a vote.

Andoran

Report from a 10 year old
Mr.MacLeod -- Cloister of Saint Bethaene

Each mark will be multiplied by itself:
1 = 1x1 = 1 pt
2 = 2x2 = 4 pts
3 = 3x3 = 9 pts
4 = 4x4 = 16 pts
5 = 5x5 = 25 pts
6 = 6x6 = 36 pts
7 = 7x7 = 49 pts
8 = 8x8 = 64 pts
9 = 9x9 = 81 pts
10 = 10x10 = 100 pts

and then I add them all up...
and then I give your ranking!

Name (64pts)
Catchy, attractive, etc.
It's not the most catchy and grabbing name, but it did get my attention.

Writing (100pts)
Well written in general, interesting, etc.
A++. Perfect. Well described, very interesting, well written.

Map (81pts)
Useful, read-able, clear, etc.
Very clear, very useful, very read-able.

Creature (81pts)
Surprising, well-used, etc.
Nice with the Ardorwesps. The Dryad is a piece of awesomeness.

General (100pts)
Anything I didn't mention above
You got me excited with every item you had. I've voted for you in every round and I've had no regrets about it. You got me excited to read this thing. Congratulations, you've received my vote.

SCORE: 426
RANK: 2nd(Behind Mr.McGee)

Andoran RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8 aka AWizardInDallas

I just wanted to say that I like your map. :)


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber

Congrats Alexander!

I thought your map was well-designed, and actually looked great despite its "hand-drawness". It did an excellent job of conveying all the right elements. Conceptually, the idea of the Cloister; how it mixes with the Golarion setting; and generally the whole setup were well-done.

The one flaw I had with the submission was the encounter. I wasn't overly impressed with the ardorwesp/corrupted fey mix. That's more my personal feeling than anything inherently wrong.

Good luck with your adventure submission! I'm very curious to see what you have planned. In my book, you are the front runner - your's have been some of the most polished submissions.


Alexander, I have to admit that my favorite entrant in the competition has been Jesse Benner, but that may be because he's my husband and I'm still holding out hope that freelancing for Paizo will bring in the big bucks that will allow me to live the lifestyle to which I'd like to become accustomed... That said, your entries every round were solid, and it's hard to be disappointed too much when talent like yours is in the top four...


Congratulations on making the top 4. :)


Great job, Alex - loved your encounter and map!

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Alexander,

I'm not sure if you're still checking into this thread while you're working on your adventure proposal. However, I just wanted to note that I thought you did some really excellent work here. I'm proud to see another North Carolinian in the Top 4. And I'm really interested to see what you pitch. And, as a MacLeod, you and I both know..."there can be only one"... ;-)

Put your best foot forward,
--Neil

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